Microsoft’s growth proves boom for downtown Bellevue

Microsoft’s Redmond campus is overflowing with personnel, giving downtown Bellevue a windfall tenant during hard economic times.

Lindsay Pomeroy, Microsoft real-estate manager, explained during a Dec. 4 meeting of the Downtown Bellevue Association how Bellevue became a primary beneficiary of the software firm’s growth.

The company slowed its hiring during the dot-com bust, causing pent-up energy for the software innovator, he said. This set off a recruiting surge once the economy recovered.

The problem is that there wasn’t enough space to hold everyone the company wanted to bring in.

“We were way behind the curve,” Pomeroy said. “By 2006, we were in desperate need of a significant amount of office space.”

So the company starting signing leases, first at Lincoln Square, then The Bravern, and finally City Center Plaza. Microsoft now expects to have more than 5,700 employees stationed in Bellevue between those three sites.

The software giant also has plans for expanding at its Redmond campus.

But why should Bellevue benefit from so much of the growth?

Pomeroy said it’s a matter of proximity. Bellevue is close to Microsoft’s headquarters and central to its employee population, 80 percent of which lives on the broader Eastside.

The city also offers plenty of amenities, including meeting spaces and hotels, Pomeroy said. Microsoft can use as many as 100,000 hotel rooms per year.

“I’m not a hotel expert, but they tell me that’s a pretty strong demand,” Pomeroy said.

Microsoft does not comment about the terms of its leases, but Pomeroy suggested that the company won’t be leaving town any time soon.

“These are longer-term leases than we’ve typically done in suburban areas,” he said.

Also speaking at the Bellevue Downtown Association gathering was Rob Greyber, who represented Expedia’s corporate travel wing, Egencia.

Expedia employs 1,700 people at its downtown Bellevue headquarters.

“Being in downtown was a great way for us to be involved with growth,” Greyber said, noting that the city center also provided visibility and a chance for the company to remain in its hometown.

Some of the audience questions focused on skepticism about the economy.

“I think this is going to be a year in which people spend money very carefully,” Greyber said, noting that people will continue to look for good deals and values.

“They want to go places and travel with their families,” he said. “This is also a critical time for businesses to be out in front of clients.”

Joshua Adam Hicks can be reached at or 425-453-4290.

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